Hyper-V SMB shops seek System Center 2012 alternatives

Some small Hyper-V shops look to third-party Hyper-V monitoring and reporting tools as an alternative to the new mammoth Microsoft System Center 2012 bundles.

Microsoft recently bundled its System Center products together into a sprawling suite, giving some SMB shops reason to consider third-party products from smaller vendors for Hyper-V virtualization management.

After looking at System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) and conferring with other users of those products, the System Center 2012 suite seemed “complex, big, and geared toward the enterprise,” said Femi Adegoke, IT Director at the West Gastroenterology Medical Group in Los Angeles, Calif. “The learning curve seems pretty steep.”

System Center 2012 components

System Center 2012 Datacenter Edition includes Operations Manager, Configuration Manager, Data Protection Manager, Service Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, Endpoint Protection, Orchestrator, and App Controller.

Previously, Microsoft offered bundles of five of the System Center products together, called Server Management suites. These packages included Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, Data Protection Manager, Data Protection Manager, Service Manager and Virtual Machine Manager.

The two suites were Server Management Suite Enterprise (SMSE) and Server Management Suite Datacenter (SMSD). Under SMSE, users were licensed to manage up to four Operating System Environments (OSEs) per physical server. That limitation goes away with System Center 2012.

System Center 2012 Datacenter Edition is now licensed per socket and offers cross-platform virtualization management for an unlimited number of VMs per physical host. For the new Datacenter bundle, the list price is $3,607 per socket.

Small and medium-sized companies that may only need a backup, management, or monitoring tool for their Hyper-V environment may look to third party vendors to get only what they need and save money, rather than use the System Center 2012 offerings, wrote System Center suite user Rob McShinsky in a blog post shortly after Microsoft Corp. bundled all the System Center 2012 products into one license

“Even for larger enterprises, having to jump into a full product suite where there could be other existing product overlap with other vendors, may be enough to at least open the door to looking at a third-party product,” McShinsky wrote.

Large enterprises are less likely to stray from the System Center suite, however. “As a rule, we’re committed to System Center,” said Chris Steffen, principal technical architect at Kroll Factual Data, a business information provider in Loveland, Colo., which runs more than 1,900 virtual machines (VMs) on Hyper-V. “We’re always more interested in how tools are integrated into System Center. … We’re trying to eliminate, not add on tools.”

Third-party vendors dangle Hyper-V support
Against that backdrop, two third-party monitoring and reporting vendors say they will include Hyper-V support in their products next quarter.

Veeam Software will release the Veeam One suite of monitoring and reporting tools, which will gather performance and configuration information on Hyper-V VMs, and report on memory and disk space in Hyper-V environments as well. The product will also combine previously separate Veeam Monitor, Veeam Reporter and Veeam Business View software into one interface.

Veeam’s new pricing and packaging targets small IT shops that don’t need all the tools in Systems Center 2012. The forthcoming suite will include Essentials bundles for two-, four- and six-socket environments starting at $700 for a two-socket bundle of Veeam One and Veeam Standard Backup. Another bundle that includes Veeam Enterprise Backup and includes Veeam’s one-click file restore and automated recovery verification features starts at $1,300 per two-socket host.

The West Gastroenterology Medical Group’s Adegoke said he’s interested in test driving Veeam’s offering, since he already has “a favorable impression of their backup tool.”

Adegoke’s organization doesn’t use any centralized monitoring tool, so IT administrators have to log in to each VM to try to pinpoint where bottlenecks lie.

SolarWinds released its Virtualization Manager 5.0 with support for Hyper-V to beta last week, with a planned release next quarter. Development on the product, ongoing since last year, has focused on storage management features by linking Virtualization Manager and another product, Storage Profiler “so that users can … navigate from the virtual to the underlying physical entities,” according to the company’s website.

McShinsky was intrigued by SolarWinds’ focus on storage management. “There is definitely a lack of insight into the underlying storage infrastructure in [Hyper-V] virtual environments,” he said in a separate interview. “Most of the monitoring solutions built today focus on the hosts and how they interact with the VM performance.” 

ISV support shows Hyper-V gaining steam
It’s clear that third-party virtualization management tool vendors are beginning to look beyond VMware Inc. this year, as an increasing number of shops add multiple hypervisors.

What had been an anemic market for Hyper-V management tools is gaining strength, McShinsky noted. “The Hyper-V vendor community is growing, which is a very good sign.”

Veeam and SolarWinds will compete with Quest Software’s vFoglight, VKernel’s vOps and 5Nine Software’s Cloud Manager for Hyper-V in the monitoring space. Other companies, including 5Nine, Quest’s vRanger, Altaro, and PHDVirtual also plan to expand into Hyper-V backup. Virsto, a Hyper-V storage management product, is also attracting growing attention from IT pros.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com and SearchDataCenter.com. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com.

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